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Buffalo National River drowning prompts reminder to take precautions on lakes and rivers

Despite the recent heavy rains, the water was at a moderate level when the 16-year-old drowned. This is why wearing a life vest at all times is so important.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The death of a 16-year-old boy over Memorial Day weekend at the Buffalo National River is a reminder to make sure you are taking extra precautions when on water this summer.

The 16-year-old boy who died Monday marks the first drowning at the Buffalo National River this year and unfortunately, this is not uncommon.

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"We do see a few deaths in the state of Arkansas every year," Cassie Branstetter said.

The 16-year-old boy was from Newport, Arkansas. He drowned near Grinder's Ferry, the middle district of the Buffalo National River. His body was found in 10-15 feet of water and was not found wearing a life jacket.

"He began to struggle, went under water, and unfortunately, never resurfaced," Branstetter said. 

Cassie Branstetter, public information officer for the Buffalo National River, said despite heavy rains recently, the water was at a moderate level when he drowned. This is why she emphasizes the importance of wearing a life vest at all times.

"Sometimes there's an unseen obstacle underwater. Sometimes people are jumping from rocks into the water and not realizing that it's quite as shallow as it turns out to be," she said.

Even if you believe you are a good swimmer in a pool, that sometimes is not enough to keep yourself afloat in other bodies of water.

"Streams, creeks and rivers, they often have currents and unseen conditions underwater," Branstetter said.

Keep an eye out for areas where water is moving swiftly. These are good indicators to take the life vests out just in case.

"In the state of Arkansas, it is law that those who are 13 years or younger wear a life jacket at all times when they're in a water vessel," she said.

If you're not a confident swimmer, Branstetter recommends avoiding places like the Buffalo National River.

"If you are thinking of going or coming to the park in kayak or canoe with some young children, assess whether or not they would be able to self-rescue in case you were unknowingly going to tip and fall into the water," she said.

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